Weekly News #18 | SoylentGate, Is the US Giant Doomed?

Time to have a look to what has happened in the meal replacement world during the past week. Unlike the product launch packed article last week, this time I have a slower and somewhat more negative article to write. In the center of the storm is Soylent. The American brand has been having some customer satisfaction issues that “exploded” this week. Besides that,

SoylentGate

The US based company is the first and one of the biggest brands in the industry. Mostly in their home country, where they have kept absolute dominance since inception. However, with the increase in competition and some issues of their own, Soylent has had more struggles over the past year.

These struggles included dropping sales, issues with product control, and lessen customer satisfaction. In previous weeks, I often reported multiple accounts of products being shipped with very close best before dates. There have also been multiple angry threads at the r/Soylent subreddit highlighting their negative experiences with the company.

Issues at Soylent Summarized

However, in one of the best informative posts that I have seen in that subreddit, u/sentinelspirit highlighted all the concerning factors around the company (source):

  • Negative Glassdoor review spike in the last 6 months. Glassdoor is a website that tracks companies based on current and former employees reviews. Right now Soylent has 2.9 stars (out of 5), with the last reviews being mostly 1 star.

“The CEO and CFO are insane and make day to day life there unbearable. They need to both be blacklisted in the industry. The business is tanking and it is all because of the idiots running the place.” (September 17, 2019)

“The building itself it nice and in a cool neighborhood. Sadly, the company is so far in debt they are no longer even able to try to rent desks and office space to pay their rent and instead they continue to reducing the number of employees and have decide to move to a smaller building to slow the hemorrhaging.” (August 27, 2019)

  • Large discount sales and clearance sales by retailers. On its own it doesn’t mean much, but taking into account the rest of the factors, it could be seen as poor sales.
  • Products shipped with short best before dates. Similarly to the above mentioned fact, in conjunction with other factors it could mean poor sales. Soylent ships their oldest products first and the newest (in terms of manufacturing) after when getting rid of stock. Thus, a lot of the product that was being shipped during September and Black Friday was manufactured long ago.
  • Taking down Soylent Cafe Mocha Powder. The powder line has very few flavour options (3) despite being the oldest product. It is also the “easiest” to manufacture. Taking down one out of three flavours without replacing it with a new one is a very significant cut.
  • Failure of Soylent UK. Soylent UK has been a project that has received very little support. At some point, however, they were offering both Soylent Powder and Soylent Drink. Nevertheless, the Powder line has been taken out, hinting poor sales and market penetration on Great Britain.
  • Soylent Innovation Lab is closed down. I remember that this was a big announcement made by Soylent about a year ago. They were looking to use a larger facility to increase R&D. However, they recently downsized and moved out from this facility.

On top of these, you need to add multiple complaints on the lack of communication by the company and the lackluster customer support, according to the redditors.

Current aura Soylent is giving.

Soylent’s Answer

Soylent partially answered some of the questions raised in Reddit on a post by u/soylent_team.

  • About delayed shipments and products being out of stock.

Our out-of-stocks were caused by unanticipated delays in manufacturing and higher than anticipated sales. Most customers should have already received their delayed shipments; for those who haven’t, we anticipate that they will arrive by Jan 24th, 2020. Some of you also contacted us about partial shipments – given the delays we were experiencing on these products, we decided to ship partial orders for the first time so that customers would get any portion of their order that was in stock.

  • About the expired product.

Any Soylent product is good to consume anytime before it’s best before date. If you receive a product from us that is past that date, that is our mistake and, as always, we will work with you to ship out fresh product right away at no cost to you. In addition, if you are “stocking up” and are concerned that your product will expire prior to consuming, please reach out to us when you receive your order at [email protected] and we will do our best to work with you to ensure you have fresh product when you need it.

  • About customer support not answering the queries or taking too long to do so.

Due to a spike in customer contacts over the holidays, which was a result of our delayed and partial shipments, we experienced a backlog for a few days and did not put the resources necessary to handle the increase.

While some of the points made do address the concerns the users had, it is clear that most of it is a PR answer. In fact, it fails to address the biggest or most worrisome issues; such as, the downsizing and the negative reviews.

What’s Next For Soylent?

I feel that Soylent had a lot of trust banked up from their customers. However, over the past 6 months they have been burning through this trust really fast, with the delays, lack of communication and issues with their products. As such, the trust levels from Soylent’s customers are at all time low. This has created an exodus to other Soylent alternatives and an air of mistrust.

In order to regain the users trust, Soylent will have to work hard to get to where they were. I would particularly like to see an improvement in communication, where other brands like Huel, Mana and some of the upcoming like Vite Ramen are doing a great job.

The truth is that the American brand still has a name; a good product (particularly Soylent Drink); many retail contacts and sellpoints; plus, a loyal customer base. Therefore, I don’t think they will be collapsing anytime soon.

Furthermore, there has been good news at Soylent, like the success of Soylent Squared, the new product Soylent Stacked, and the return of Soylent to Canada.

Vitaline Daily Adds 2 New Flavours

The French brand Vitaline is one of my favourite with high quality organic meal replacement shake options. They place importance in natural, local ingredients and achieving the highest Nutriscore ratings in all their products. Such a focus makes for slow development often. However, they have a great open beta-testing program (Pilot program) where the products are available to buy before the launch and you can give your feedback on them.

The 2 latest shakes coming from this program are Daily Mushroom and Daily Vegetables.

Vitaline Daily Mushroom
Vitaline Daily Mushroom

Ingredients: Yellow flaxseed*, buckwheat flour*, unrefined manioc syrup*, milk protein*(origin : Switzerland), mixture of powdered oils (oleic sunflower*, rapeseed*, flaxseed* ; carrier : unrefined manioc syrup*, acacia fibre* ; antioxidant: natural rosemary extract*), potatoes*, chestnut flour* 6.1%, coconut milk*, mushrooms* 3% (ceps 1%, shitake 1%, button mushrooms 1%), natural flavour, agave*, acacia fibre*, pea proteins*, maca*, Guérande salt, garlic*, acaï berries*, lithothamnium, acerola*, moringa*, carrots*, roucou*, rice bran*, curry leaves*, basil*, lemon*, spinach*, parsley*, amla*, green tea*, lichens*, spirulina*, antioxidant: natural rosemary extract*.
* organic.

Vitaline Daily Green Vegetables
Vitaline Daily Green Vegetables

Ingredients: Buckwheat flour* 21.6%, yellow flaxseed*, unrefined manioc syrup*, mixture of powdered oils* (oleic sunflower*, rapeseed*, flax*; carrier: unrefined manioc syrup*, acacia fibre*; antioxidant: natural rosemary extract*), milk protein* (origin: Switzerland), potatoes* 7.1%, spinach 5.6%, leeks 5%, coconut milk, chestnut flour*, pea protein* 2.5%, mushrooms*, acacia fibre*, maca*, Guérande salt, moringa* 1%, acai berries*, lithothamnium, acerola*, carrots*, roucou*, rice bran*, curry leaves*, basil*, parsley*, amla*, green tea*, shitake*, lichens*, spirulina*, antioxidant: natural rosemary extract*.

Both flavours are currently available only on the format shown above, unlike the rest of the Daily offering that can be purchased on pouches. Each bottle has 400kcal and starts at €3.99. You can use both bulk discount and subscription to make the price lower.

Other News

Not much else to report besides some job opportunities:

  • Work at Huel. The British giant is looking to expand their customer service in both the UK and the US. For the UK, you can look at careers.huel.com; where they are also interested in management accountants, and other roles.
  • Work at YFood. This is an interesting one, since the German brand is looking for people in “new markets”. It’s looking like they are finally expanding more conciously to Europe and such they are looking for country managers.
Best of wishes to the Australian readers!

Have a great week!

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